Artur Żmijewskiii b. 1966
Democracies (2009)
Duration: 3 minutes

“Democracies” (2009) is a new project from Artur Zmijewski that will premier at the daadgalerie. Presented on a row of monitors, this cacophonic video installation could also be understood as a series of individual, documentary videos. Zmijewski is exploring the free, public expression of opinion in the form of gatherings and crowds in different places in Europe. With this project, Zmijewski moves his work out of his typical sphere of staged social experiments into a more public realm of events. Since at least the 2005 Venice Biennial and documenta12 in 2007, Artur Zmijewski’s filmed social experiments have been seen by large audiences. In Venice, he initiated a re-enactment of the famous “Sanford Prison Experiment” from 1971 about behavioural role assumption in the prison environment. For the film presented at documenta12, Zmijewski incited volunteers from opposing societal groups in Poland into a conflict about their respective symbols. Zmijewski creates laboratory-type situations around human behaviour with which he tests the societal conditioning and inherited status quos. With these social experiments, Zmijewski produces empirical knowledge about the human condition and its societal symptoms. As he says himself, as an artist he broadens the range of scientific knowledge through methods of dreams, imagination, responsibility, risk, and repetition. For the “Democracies” (2009) project at the daadgalerie, Zmijewski departs from his work using recruited volunteers. In a series of short documentary films, he looks into the different symbols of nationalist and other movements visible in a variety of public spaces. All the clips depict public (and political) fervour in different places around Europe, Israel and the Westbank, like demonstrations, parades or re-enactments of historical battles. They include for example material from the European Football Championships in Berlin and Jörg Haider’s funeral in Klagenfurt. As in all of his work, also in these images of ordered and disordered crowds, Zmijewski places the human body at the focal point of his observations.